A Kiss at Midnight.
The clock had struck midnight several hours ago, but none present seemed to care. The party was still in full swing, and the air was full of laughter, happy noise rising like strange music from the crowd. Yeti made up the bulk of the crowd, but other spirits were present, mingling easily in North's work shop now that all the shelves and workspaces were empty. Celebrating a new year, and jobs well done.
Jack leaned against his staff, slouched comfortably out of the way of all the bustle. No doubt some of the others would love to speak with him, what with him a shiny new Guardian, but these people hadn't had time for him that long ago. False friendship wasn't really interesting in the midst of all the warmth, and the afterglow of a good meal lingering in his bones. He was just as content to sit out of the way and watch, soak in the atmosphere and just feel the kinship of it. It felt so weird just a few months ago, but now it was like a broken bone had been set- everything had clicked, and it felt right, to be here, to be among friends, to feel like family. It was still strange, and perhaps he'd never get over that, but the only way he'd ever learn was by sticking around.
"Ah. So this is where you've been hiding." A soft chuckle accompanied the greeting; it was all rolled up in that strange accent. It made Jack's lips curl in a smile, but he was quick to hide it, not quite successfully, as he looked down at Bunnymund.
"Yeah. Didn't really feel like listening to North's jokes." The bunny bristled, and he held up a hand quickly, not even meaning to start a fight. "Not that there's anything wrong with his jokes," Jack added before Bunnymund could get a word in, "I just didn't feel up to... socialising." He concluded lamely. That wasn't it at all. This was just... strange, for him. Very strange. People, for holidays, for anything. He didn't have to prank Bunny to get his attention anymore- Jack had free reign of his Warren, passage to come and go as he pleased. A haven offered in the homes of the Big Four; something he thought would have been impossible, a year ago.
The scratch of Bunnymund's nails on the wood floor drew him back to himself with a start. Jack looked down at him, frowning. "Where're you going, Bunny?"
The Guardian of Hope glanced back, flicking his ears towards Jack, then away again, towards the party.
"You want to be alone. I don't want to disturb you, not with you having put such effort into avoiding us all night. Didn't think you would mind." His tone was light, but artificially so. Jack could hear the injury underneath it that the rabbit was trying to hide, the stiffness in his shoulders.
"Bunny..? Have I offended you?" he asked carefully, as he pushed off the shelf he'd been perched on, landing with a soft thump feet from the now-obviously upset Guardian. Bunnymund shifted back around, crouching so they were eye to eye.
"Jackie, we're family now; all of us. You. Me. Tooth. North. Sandy." His green eyes narrowed, and Jack ducked his head, scuffing his foot across the floor as he bit his lip to keep an excuse from popping out. He knew what was coming next. Guilt rose in his chest, tight and hot.
"I spent all evening looking for you."
His head jerked up, eyes wide. Bunnymund reached out, hesitating, than laid a paw on his shoulder. It curled, warming him through the cold, frozen fabric. Distantly, he was aware of the whisper of fur against frost, the faint crackle produced when pads on his paw broke the frost, and it refroze.
"You looked for me? The entire time?" Any second he expect the moment to break, shatter into a million shards, and the strange bubble they were trapped in to evaporate. But whatever it was seemed to have them in its thrall, stuck fast in its grasp. His heart wanted to beat fast, and freeze dead at the same time. It seemed to have settled on a strange, painful lurching pattern that left him short of breath, the air as thin as two thousand feet up. Bunny kept looking at him with that strange look of concern and resignation, and he just want to, to wash it away, scrub it off, make it disappear, and that wouldn't have happened a year ago. That crippling guilt for hurting his feelings, for making him worry.
The Jack from a year ago would have taunted him and had a good laugh, but then, the Bunny for a year ago would have kick him in the teeth if he could have. But they'd... changed. Over that brief time, something had shifted, and the way they viewed each other had morphed.
Jack came back to himself abruptly, for the second time. Snow drifted abruptly around him, frost forming over his cheeks. He ducked his head to hid his embarrassment, wrapping both hands around his staff, as he scuffed a barefoot against the warm wood floor. Specks of water from his snow dotted the wood.
"What about the party?" He muttered.
Bunny shrugged. "There'll be one next year. This isn't my first one. But it's yours. I wanted you to know you belong, Jackie." Jack saw the other Guardian's paw's shift, coming closer. Pale hands curled tighter around his staff, embarrassment curling in his belly.
"Hey now, what's this? You've got something on your face." Soft fur brushed off the frost that had formed on the surface of his skin, sending flakes onto their feet to melt quickly in the warm air. The frost came back as soon as it was gone, thickening across his nose, cheeks and ears, and rising on the back of his neck. He could feel it starting on the sides of his neck, enough to fracture the light, redouble his embarrassment.
Like all children eventually learn, a blush only led to more blushing. Bunny stopped trying to brush off the frost quickly enough, his low rumbling chuckle enough to make Jack hunch his shoulders in misery.
The paw that had been brushing at his frost ruffled his hair affectionately, Bunny's voice suddenly sly. "What's the matter, Jackie? Embarrassed?" The winter spirit held his silence stubbornly, convinced anything he said from this point on could only make it worse.
Soft fur against his chin, a carefully touch that Jack resisted just for the sake of stubbornness as Bunny chuckled; eventually relenting, the winter spirit let himself be brought out of his self-imposed staring contest with the ground. Bunny's fingers cracked his frost, but that rolling pit of embarrassment he'd formerly called his stomach was still in full swing; the Pooka didn't seem to mind that frost crept over his hand as he tilted Jack's head up, until their eyes could meet. And Jack couldn't not meet his eyes. That was against everything he stood for, every challenge he'd ever given. But there was snow in the air around them, small flakes, and they were coming from him, and he wasn't even sure why he was this embarrassed. Or maybe he was scared. Or it was a combination of the two.
For all his teasing, he wasn't fond of it. And Bunny was teasing him, and he didn't know what he was up to, but he didn't want to be teased by the others, not even in an affectionate manner. Tooth would want to make him blush, and North wouldn't get why it was embarrassing, and Sandy well...
"I guess this would be a bad time to give you your new years gift?"
What? His whirling thoughts came to an abrupt halt. Bunny's hand was still in his hair, and the other was on his staff, and the ass was grinning, ear to bloody ear. Like he knew something Jack didn't.
"No...?" the winter spirit offered, now severely off kilter, unease mixing and mashing with the embarrassment slushing about in his veins.
"Good, good. Happy new year, Jack. It's a few hours late, but, I couldn't find you at midnight."
Before Jack could work out what he meant by that, Bunny curled his paws, and pulled him towards him, stepping forward to meet Jack's stumble halfway. Fingers threaded in his hair, tilting his face back, and just as the Pooka's other arm wrapped lightly around his back, Jack realised what was happened.
He's really going to-! Alarm speared through him.
Whiskers tickled his face as Bunny's mouth slanted against his, fur bushing his frost covered cheeks. Heat bloomed all across his front, from Bunny's body; the soft cushion of fur between him and the lean, developed muscle underneath. Where Jack was stiff with surprise, cold crawling all over his skin as his flushed from the roots of his hair to his collarbone, Bunny was at ease, fingers stroking down Jack's spine, brushing the side of his face; ice crystals fell free with the movements, wetting his fingers. The winter spirit shivered with the effort it took to relax his tense muscle, easing into hesitantly kiss the other Guardian back.
It couldn't have been more than a handful of seconds, but it felt like an age.
The warmth against him moved back, arm at his back disappearing, and when he opened his eyes, he was surprised to find Bunny standing a respectful distance away.
"Happy New Years, Jackie."